A Little Announcement…My Niece is Coming to Thailand with Me!

My niece Ana and me at Disney

My niece Ana and me at Disney World over the summer

If I were forced to attach a label to myself as a traveler, it would probably be something along the lines of “solo twenty-something traveler” because that pretty much sums up the last three years or so of traveling. I traveled, mostly alone though with often with friends, and after that first year around the world I interspersed my trips with chunks of time back home in Florida with my family.

So, with that in mind, for those who have followed my story and my journey over the past nearly three years, a completely new adventure is starting! In late October, my niece Ana and I will leave for Asia for six-ish months of travel and homeschooling from the road.

This is a pretty big change for both of us and it has been cooking behind the scenes for a several months now. The short of the situation is this: my brother (her father) and I discussed (at great lengths) the pros and cons of her traveling right now, with me. And the pros won out. In fact, they overwhelmingly won out.

Ana is 11 years old and entered the six grade this month; in the US, this means she would have entered a whole new school, a new set of friends, and a new chapter in her life. All the family weighed in, and we decided that instead of enrolling her in middle school right away, she will spend some months on the road with me. The process has already begun and this past week we started our first attempts at homeschooling, the style of learning we’ll be doing once we leave to travel through Asia.

It’s been a bumpy start :)

But, Ana is cautiously optimistic about it all. There are elements she’s thrilled to consider, and others that are tough for an 11 year old to accept (the friends, she doesn’t want to leave her friends). On my end, I have the opportunity and ability to give her this and more than anything I want her to see the world differently, to participate, to experience, and to expand her understanding beyond the microcosm of life presented to her in Florida.

At this point you may have some questions, here are the ones I can think of, leave any others in the comments!

Is this a late April Fools’ Day joke?

No joke, it’s happening! We have our tickets, we have a plan, and I am so very, very excited at the prospect of sharing this coming year with my niece. I am very close with my family despite traveling a lot, so although a wacky idea to be sure, I promise you it’s not completely out of the blue.

Okay, it’s happening, but how will you homeschool her through sixth grade?

I plan to get more into this topic once we actually have the hang of it, but the bulk of her homeschooling will be done online through a free program offered by the state of Florida for residents, Florida Virtual School. The state offers online classes for sixth through 12th grade and all classes are taught by state-certified teachers. She will take her core classes through this program and supplement those with learning about the people, places and foods in Asia…and really I can’t think of a better sixth grade year than that! When we come back next summer she will have a sixth grade equivalency in the core subjects (math, science, English, and social studies) and she will have so much more than equivalency in intangible subjects like culture, compassion, and perspective :)

Golden Buddha statues at Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand

How many traditional 6th graders take field trips to see the golden Buddhas at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep?!

Where are you going and why?

We’ll start our trip in Chiang Mai mostly because when the plan cropped up, I thought: “Where in the world do I feel most comfortable, knowledgeable, and with a good travel-support community?” And the answer is Chiang Mai, Thailand. We toyed with the idea of traveling through South or Central America, but settled on Asia for this trip in particular.  I told her she could pick our Asia-route after we spend a few months in Chiang Mai, once she’s more familiar and comfortable with her new world.

Aren’t you scared to bring a child to Asia?

Um…kinda terrified. :)

But not scared of Asia, it’s more of a healthy does of caution (mixed with excitement) about this entire new journey. Southeast Asia is quite safe, hence the reason we’re starting there, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that traveling with someone else’s life firmly in my hands ups the anti just a bit. Thai culture really loves children, so I have no doubt that we’ll be well-received and welcomed with the same open smiles and eager friendliness I’ve experienced even without a child in tow.

I know the world to be an inherently safe place and there are kind and welcoming people in every country, continent, and new city, I see this with my own eyes every time I leave the USA. So yes, there is trepidation about leaving with my niece, there are worries and concerns to address, there are precautions I will take with her that I wouldn’t necessarily do for myself, but there is danger everywhere in the world and I would hate to be a role model of fear for her. There are different dangers in Asia, but not necessarily more dangers than American suburbia.

What will you do over there in Asia?

No super-firm plans other than starting with a couple months in Chiang Mai, Thailand. There are a bunch of child-friendly activities near the city so we’ll explore these, learn about food and generally settle more into the Thai culture. I also plan to volunteer with her regularly, finding opportunities where she can help in some capacity and experience the new cultures from a different perspective than as a mere tourist; Chiang Mai has a lot of opportunities for this and that is also a reason we’re going there first!

What does Ana think of all this?

The jury is still out. As I said before, “cautiously excited” would be the best way to describe it. She has had a lot of new circumstances thrown at her between the homeschooling and the prepping for a trip to Asia and she is processing all of this and asking a lot of questions. I am involving her in as much as the travel planning as she wants, so that has helped generate excitement and interest.

There were two turning points recently for her: 1) When I mentioned we could hug elephants at the Elephant Rehabilitation Center outside of Chiang Mai she was thrilled at the prospect and 2) I told her she could start a blog about her trip…this got squeals of excitement about the stories she will tell and the photos she will post to make her friends jealous :)

What does this mean for A Little Adrift?

Things will go on as usual on the site: my travel stories, photos and tips. And now that Ana is with me, you can expect the ups and downs of our journey as well! I am still back-logged with stories from travels earlier this year so those will fill the gap until we leave, then you can expect regular updates and stories about our journey. Some will still be about solo travel, vegetarian travel, and once we have some time under our belt I’ll share any lessons we learn about homeschooling from the road! Some of the obstacles and hurdles I’m battling right now include: What paperwork do I need to leave the country with a child who is not actually mine? Which shots and vaccinations are appropriate for a child? How do I explain fractions and pre-algebra when it’s been 15 years since I learned it?!  :)

To start this new phase of the journey I’m launching the ALA Newsletter — subscribe to the ALA Newsletter and follow the journey; you’ll get more personal updates, never more than once a month, as well as travel tips, news, and any giveaways that come my way!

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming this week on A Little Adrift and over the next few months I’ll sporadically update you on our travel prep and plans. Any other questions, leave me a comment or send me an email!

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